The Four Tendencies – And How Understanding Which One You Are Can Change Your Life

Photo by Melissa Askew on Unsplash

Photo by Melissa Askew on Unsplash

Expectations, we all have them. Some of our expectations are external such as your boss needs that report by Friday. Other exceptions are internal such as that new resolution you made to finally lose those last 10 pounds.

How are you at meeting those expectations?

Do you find that it’s super easy for you to meet that deadline for that proposal at work, but can’t ever manage to be consistent at an exercise routine? Or, how about, you can’t ever seem to get the house clean until you’ve got dinner guests coming?

Maybe you actually get annoyed by arbitrary expectations like New Years Resolutions. Why January 1st? Why not start August 1st, or better yet, why make them at all? Or, water about that crazy new office policy–who decided that was a good idea? That makes no sense? You’re not doing it if that doesn’t make sense.

On the other hand, you may be the one we all envy who always seems to get it done. That new client proposal–done! Exercise consistently every day, while tracking all your food–check!

Then again, you may be thinking, I don’t care what they need me to do, I’m doing my own thing!

Any of these scenarios sound familiar?

With these in mind, I want to introduce you to something that has been revolutionary for Bob and my marriage.

It’s called the Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin. 

Gretchen discovers these while talking to a friend over coffee. Her friend was lamenting how she hasn’t been able to get herself to run with any kind of consistency anymore. She had no trouble showing up to track practice each day in high school. Why the struggle now?

What happened? What made the difference? Was she somehow lazier now? Or, just too busy?

As Gretchen studied this out, she began to see four patterns of people’s tendencies. She researched, quizzed people, and studied this out to see if these four patterns always held true. What developed was the Four Tendencies. 

The Four Tendencies are:

  1. Obliger

  2. Upholder

  3. Questioner

  4. Rebel

These tendencies all have different ways of meeting expectations both outer expectations (like a work deadline or a request from your “sweetheart.”), or inner exceptions (such as a New Year’s Resolution to exercise regularly or a goal to finally write that novel.).

How we respond to expectations may sound like an odd topic, but it turns out to be very important for both communication and creating the life you desire.

Back to Gretchen’s friend. She’s what’s called an Obliger. Obligers place a high value on meeting commitments of others. So they are amazing at meeting outer expectation. When they know someone is counting on them (i.e. The track coach and her teammates) they will get it done. But they’re lousy at meeting personal or internal expectation (Such as running by herself when no one was counting on her.). 

Gretchen is what’s called an Upholder. Upholders meet both inner and outer expectations with little fuss. They’re self-direct. These are the kids that wake up on their own, make their bed, get ready for school on their own and get their homework done without continual reminders. 

This is the tendency that embraces routine and may struggle to adjust their schedule suddenly. So, they can sometimes appear ridge or judgmental. It may be hard for them to understand why everyone can’t “get it done” like they can without the drama or struggle.

Now for the Questioners. These are people that need more information before they make a decision to meet an expectation or not. They place a high value on research, reason, and efficiency. They love asking questions but don’t always like others asking them questions. They resist anything arbitrary (something contingent solely upon one's discretion) like New Year’s resolutions. They can suffer from “analysis of paralysis” because they need more and more information to make a decision. 

Then we have the Rebel. Our rebel friends place a high value on freedom, choice, and self-expression. These are the people who resist being told what to do. Doctor’s order–forget it! Don’t back a Rebel into a corner. They will “show you.” Nagging will have the opposite of your desired result.

Rebels resist repetitive tasks, schedules, and routines. They enjoy having the freedom to be spontaneous. It basically got to be on their terms in their timing.

Now, keep in mind, these tendencies are not designed to put you in a box. They’re designed to help you understand yourself and your needs better. They also help you interact more effectively with other of a different tendency (similar to the 5 Love Languages help you understand how others need to receive love). 

by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Wonder what you are? Click here to take the quiz.

Some of you can actually figure out what you are by your response to my request of – Click here to take the Four Tendencies Quiz. 

Rebel: I’m not taking this dumb quiz because you just told me to. You’re not putting me into a box. 😉
Questioner: Why are you asking me to take this quiz? What’s the point? 🤔
Upholder: I’ll take the quiz, but I’ll get it done after I get the other items on my list checked off. 👍
Obliger: Of course I get stop everything and take this quiz if it’s that important to you. 😊

Over the next few posts, we’ll delve deeper into each tendency. We’ll discover not just how we can use our tendency to our advantage, but also learn how we can use the tendencies to communicate more effectively with each other.


Before taking the quiz, let me know what tendency you think your are. Then, if you want, let me know which one you ended up being.

FYI, we'll go into this later, but I'm totally an Obliger. 


Four Tendencies Quiz (it's free and only take about 5 minutes or less)

The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People's Lives Better, Too) by Gretchen Rubin